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Cowles Mt.

Average Rating:    (4.25 of 5)

No. of Reviews: 8

This is one way to the top of Cowles Mt. It is a fire road used by the rangers to patrol and get the garbage from the cans at the top. The fire road is mostly smooth but recent foot traffic and bikes have exposed much more rocks than before. It is steep and the decomposed granite make for loose sandy climbing near the top. The length is short (1.4 mi.) but gains 1,010 feet in that short distance. It is difficult to clean the whole mountain without dabbing but many do it. Also, there is an alternate way from Santee that is characterized by a hundred and something waterbars and tricky switchbacks. A good variation is to climb from Barker to the top, then go down the ST to the Santee side. This will test biker's technical downhill skills and keep you on your toes. Then climb back up from Santee to the crest and back to Barker Way. Both climbs are brutal but rewarding with views to Mexico, The Cuyamacas, and points north.
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Latitude
32.80992885581102
Longitude
-117.02093839645386
Trail Directions
Take Navajo Rd. to Cowles Mt. Blvd. Head north on Cowles Mt. Blvd. Turn left on Boulder Lake and it will dead end to Barker Way. The trail begins at the gate on Barker.
Trail Length
3 miles
Trail Level
Advanced
Trail Type
Singletrack & Fire Roads
City/County
San Diego
Zip/Postal Code
92119
Country
USA
   


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Reviews 1 - 5 (8 Reviews Total) View All | Next 5

Review Date
December 18, 2011

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 5 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 4 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a week

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5.00 of 5, 2.00 votes

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Reviewed by: ihaveagibsonsg ,  Cross Country Rider

Summary:
I ride this trail 3-4 times a week. The fire road can be exceptionally brutal in some parts. I see hikers slipping, sliding and falling to put it in to context. I get a lot of surprised looks and people telling me I'm crazy for riding up here or people at the top will ask me "did you ride your bike up here?!" It's wide but is rutted out in parts so keep an eye out on the way down or else you'll fall in to one. At the top you can either head back down the fire road or go out to Pyle's peak. The fire road can be wiped clean if you're up for a mind game. I see many bikers do the walk of shame though. I'll ride up it 3 times in a row if I need to stay local and want a quick lung buster. If you ride the trail with out stopping it should take you 15-25 minutes to make it to the top and about 5 to make it down if you don't mind the dirty looks from hikers.

Pyle's starts off with a technical descent with water bar stairs and lots of rocks but it eventually smooths out. It has some fun technical climbs too. This is one of the least used trails on the mountain. I rarely see anyone on it besides my self.

Big Rock Trail can be accessed from 2 places. The back side of big rock park by the tennis courts or mesa road. Both trails are separate and eventually meet about 2/3rds the way up big rock trail. If you start from big rock park it is a more technical trail that has more sets of stairs. You have to walk your bike up in some parts. Descending big rock is a blast but it is not for beginners or cheap bikes. I've literally trashed a cheap bike in 1 ride on this trail. If you have cheap breaks you may have to take short breaks to let your hands rest. It can even be taxing with hydraulic breaks. There's tons of rocks and water bars that are eager to send you over the bars. Mesa road on the other hand is a little smoother and can be done with out walking your bike at all. There are also a lot less hikers on the Mesa road route. I prefer riding down Mesa road trail because it seems to flow better. There's lots of lines on this trail from previous bikers so if you're new I'd suggest following what others have done.

Recommended Route:
I live near the fire road so I always start there. Take the fire road up to the top of the mountain. The Pyle's peak trail entrance is over by the radio towers. Ride Pyle's till you run in to the view point and the trail dead ends. Ride the same trail back up and enjoy the insane speeds you can reach coming down the fire road. Instead of descending all the way to the bottom, turn left to head down big rock trail. After you clean up big rock trail either head back up the same trail or take mesa road until you hit the streets and ride back through the neighborhood to get back to the fire road entrance.

My prefered ride is to ride to the top of Cowle's and ride back down big rock trail in to big rock park. Then hop on the street and connect it to mission trails and ride spring canyon to 3 barrels. It's about a 2 hour ride with 2,500 ft of elevation and 19 miles. If you want you can connect it to sycamore canyon instead for added milage. If I do that its about 32 miles. Cowle's packs a lot of punch for how few miles it is. Most riders will be content just cleaning up the fire road.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
Mission Trails, Sycamore Canyon



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Review Date
January 4, 2010

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 4 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 3 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a week

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5.00 of 5, 1.00 votes

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Reviewed by: reno83 ,  Weekend Warrior

Summary:
This trail is short, but to the point. The backside singletrack (off of Mesa in Santee) is not as steep as the fireroad, but it's longer and more challenging because it's technical. Work at it enough and eventually you will learn the lines and be able to clean it without dabbing. The way down is very fun as well. The waterbars provide nice little ramps in which to gain a little air. There are a few switchbacks near the top of the single track, but it's smooth rolling afterwards. Remember that this is not a biker trail, it is a hiking trail (although i have never hiked it myself), please be courteous and give hikers the right of way on the way up and down. I use a bear bell on the way down in order to warn others of my approach, plus it sounds like a really fast windchime hurling down the mountain. It only takes one idiot to ruin it for the rest of us.

Recommended Route:
Park at Big Boulder Park off of Mesa (off of Mission Gorge Rd in Santee). Ride to the trail head, this provides a nice warm up before climbing. There is a log suspended on chains at the entrance of the trail, it is possible to clear this without dismounting, but I've done many a "nut-check" on this so I always dismount (too early in the ride to be feeling any pain). 150 yards (give or take 50) into the fireroad, there is a trail to the right, it will descend some steps and cross a small bridge. About halfway up the trail there will be a split, one goes back down to Big Boulder Park, the other goes towards the summit. The second half of the ride is fireroad, not technical, but pretty steep and, in some places, pretty slippery. Enjoy the view at the top and be sure to take a breather, the way down can be as tiring as the way up. On the way down, I like to take the other part of the single track (the split i mentioned earlier), there are fewer hikers and allows you to gain quite a bit of speed in some sections, as well as air. Be courteous and give hikers the right of way, please use a bear bell for safety reasons.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
Mission trails: take the fire road up, split off into the single track, continue behind the mountain (towards the 52), and ride all the way up to North Fortuna.

Iron Mountain: it's a hike-a-bike up, unless your superman. The way down is fun and hairy. Up or down, remember that there is no shame in walking. Arrive early to clear the cobwebs, this trail gets packed with hikers.

Anderson Truck Trail: the climb is not difficult, but it's better to shuttle because the downhill can be grueling, and you might want to save your energy for a second downhill trip.

Noble Canyon: SoCal epic! You can shuttle up and ride down, it's a long trail. when in shape, i prefer to park at the bottom, ride the paved fireroad up and come back down (app. a 14-mile ride).



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Review Date
January 8, 2007

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 5 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 2 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a week

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5.00 of 5, 1.00 votes

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Reviewed by: davetherave ,  Weekend Warrior

Summary:
Excellent class A climb when you don't have much time! The Barker Way trail head is about 1 mile from my house so this is my weekly workout. I am a newbie on MTB, but after about 8 times I was finally able to make the top without stopping. You see a lot of downhillers pushing their bikes up this trail and it is sooo fun to ride by them. This is not a technical ride with the exception of some seasonal ruts on the near 22% grade section near the top. But it is an awesome climb and you are rewarded with some of the best views in SD. I have descended the more technical route down to Mesa Road and hope to try climbing that stretch soon. Not looking forward to those railroad ties. I have hiked this section with my 11 year old son and it does not seem as steep as the fireroad.



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Review Date
July 29, 2005

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 4 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 3 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a week

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5.00 of 5, 1.00 votes

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Reviewed by: bigben ,  Downhiller

Summary:
This is a fun, short ride that can be shuttled, looped, out and backed or lollipopped. Either way there is some climbing/walking and fun down hill sections. Go to the top every so often for the view, but there isn't much appeal in such a steep ascent to only get a worn fire road downhill. Some idiots don't even wear a helmet on this ride, and the fire road is slick in some turns due to the decomposed granite. This is my stock ride if I don't have a lot of time, though I can't think of a better downhill section unless you go to Noble. There's room to work on some skills at Cowles. There's one slow speed switchback into some stairs that are 6-10 inches tall. A couple small uphill sections, some fast turns, one semi-noteworthy jump, and if you want a 3-4 foot drop + horizontal speed check out the cement foundation at the bottom near Big Rock park on Mesa road.

Recommended Route:
Start at Barker way. HIke a bike to the turn off down to Mesa Rd which is all singletrack with HIKERS (Be considerate as we would hate to lose this option for bikers). The down takes about 10 minutes if you're on it. Then either shuttle or I ride it as a loop going up Mesa Rd (turns to dirt) until there is a spot to turn right and hike a bike up a short section that eventually drops you off at Cowles Mtn. Blvd which is a short road ride back to the gate on Barker. If you don't see the hike a bike on the right sied of Mesa as you are heading back then you can go straight and you will be on Lake Murray Blvd, which is just a longer ride on pavement to get back to your starting point. I don't bother going to the top of the mountain cause it's not a lot of fun with a non-technical, non-exciting yet risky downhill on a washed and rutted fire road. Total time for this loop is about 1 hour depending on your speed.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
There's some XC in Mission Trails Park.



Comments
davetherave (04/10/2007)
Dont' "Hike a Bike" to the turn off down to Mesa Rd... ride it like a man (or a fit chick)
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Review Date
January 11, 2005

Overall Rating
 5 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 5 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 5 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a week

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5.00 of 5, 2.00 votes

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Reviewed by: Gunnar Boy ,  Cross Country Rider

Summary:
Short but very steep climb on a fire road. Gets to 22 percent grade in places. Starting to get severe ruts from the deluge of rain here this winter. It drains extremely well and can be done during the rainy season. The backside is also awesome with many waterbars to tackle. Once on top do the out and back to the turn around at Pyles Pk. Great for training or just getting your heartrate up to 200.

Recommended Route:
Park at Barker, go through the gate and start the suffering.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
Mission Trails, ATT, Noble Cyn.



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Reviews 1 - 5 (8 Reviews Total) View All | Next 5